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Winds of the MediterraneanSirocco and Mistral

BY Wijke Ruiter

Who wouldn't like the azury blue Med; with its azury blue sky; heavenly climate and lovely sea water; reasons enough for a lazy beach day.  But ever thought of playing golf during the siesta? 

"Summer time golf? It hadnít crossed my mind. My three visits had all been in winter and I presumed, misguidedly, that summer would be blood-boiling time and too hot.
Not so, I learned recently. The year-round average temperature is pleasant. 
Aside from the occasional Sirocco, a hot and muscular wind from Africa which announces itself three or four times a year and takes four days to run its course, the breeze is a cooling one. Itís just strong enough to make golf interesting and takes the heat out of the sun on the days  that bring the occasional scorcher."

According to tourist guides, the Mediterranean must be paradise. Even for golfers.
They conceal the disaster the unreliable climate can bring.

The winds of the Med we discuss here will be two different ones. The first is a hot and strong wind from the Sahara and the other one is a cool wind coming down from the mountains. The winds mostly have different local names, but they often have the same origin.  

Sirocco; hot wind from the Desert.
De Sirocco is a southerly, which develops when a low above the Mediterranean moves east. This Med-low draws hot air from a large area of the Northern Sahara; it moves north and will finally meet the air above the sea, which is about 10 įC cooler; but far more humid.
When these two air masses meet, fronts with heavy rain- and thunderstorms can develop and the winds can reach forces about 40 to 50 knots; that's up to force 10 at the Beaufort-scale.

De Sirocco is famous not only because of the heavy rain and damaging storms; but it can also bring sand from the Sahara; spreading widely over the European continent. This sand comes down with the rain; sometimes even in Holland.Sirocco van LibiŽ (Ghibli) onderweg naar Griekenland.
Apart from these effects the Sirocco also can affect health.  The sudden change of temperature and humidity can be very depressing for a lot of people; causing headaches and sleeping problems    
The Sirocco mostly occurs during the springtime - from February to July - but also can develop in other times of the year.

Sirocco in Libya
 Libya also has its famous desert storms. A southerly, dry and hot wind comparable with the Sirocco. The Libyans call it: Ghibli.
This wind brings dust and sand; the sky is red to brown and the visibility can lower to less than 30 meters.
Libya has no natural barriers, so this wind can spread through the whole country. When Ghibli  reaches the Mediterranean the temperature there can suddenly rise from 40 to 50įC and the humidity lower from 80 to 10 %.
The Ghibli can last one to four days. During this period normal life is hardly possible.
Fortunately this desert storm can be well predicted; it always occurs when there's a deep low above the Med. 

The Mistral; a cold mountain wind.
De Mistral is a northerly downwind in the South of France. It can easily reach hurricane force and in wintertime it can bring freezing temperatures - below zero -  to the French Riviera.  De Mistral develops when cold air masses from the North pole moves far south into Europe. A low above the much warmer Med will force this cold air to flow more south along the French Alps into the Rhone valley. This valley acts as a natural wind tunnel which increases wind force; sometimes to 10 or 11 Beaufort.
With a Mistral outburst the sea can chance into a raving eddy; with huge thundering breakers. When the cold and warm air masses meet above the sea; heavy rain- and thunderstorm can develop.
The Mistral can linger for about 4 days; even at night - when the temperature differences decline, this wind can roar heavily; bringing lots of dust. Its imaginable that animals but also people - however used to the phenomenon - can get very nervous; and really relieved when the storm is over.